Dolittle shines with powerful messages and multiple story arcs that kids and families need to learn. With an extensive cast of fantastic talent voicing the animals, Robert Downey Jr. brings his corky eccentricity to the character of Dolittle.
Dolittle is a reimagining of the classic tale of a man who can talk to animals. We are dropped into the current world of Doctor John Dolittle with a brief narrative about how some of the animals came to live with the eccentric doc at his manor. Dolittle’s wife Lily, an explorer that passed during one of her adventures, leaving Dolittle to shut himself off from the world and the work he used to do for the animals.
When Queen Victoria falls ill, she sends Lady Rose to fetch Dolittle because she only trusts him to uncover her aliments. At the same time, a young boy named Stubbins finds himself in desperate need of a veterinarian. The two children give the animals hope that their beloved doctor will come out of his shell to help.
“In this iteration, he is a one-time royal consultant veterinarian and also had some relationship with the young Queen Victoria, but he’s fallen into personal disrepair,” Robert Downey Jr. says. “He suffered a loss, his wife was a great adventurer, and through a series of circumstances she passed away, so he has become a recluse. And I also love the idea of someone who is a complete hermit and agoraphobic and just never wants to deal with people ever again. Kind of the exact opposite of Tony Stark to be honest.”
An adventure to faraway lands pushes all of the animals and humans to get outside of their comfort zones.
The filmmakers choose specific animals from the vast collection of within the Dolittle stories. They were picked based on their journeys as well. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of story arcs happening within the story. Each of the animals is growing in their own ways.
It’s interesting to think about what it was like working with the animal characters that aren’t there and added in later.
“Well, because that long bench of talent adding the voice and the real specificity to the character after the fact, it was kind of like just water painting what we would imagine what some of these personalities to be like,” Downey says. “You would say the same thing about every pet we’ve ever had a personality that we could pinpoint over others, so all these animals have their own frequency and their own corks. I’m glad you said arcs because the most important thing is if you don’t feel the animals themselves wind up somewhere different than where they started, then it hasn’t been much of a journey.”
Great Messages from Dolittle
One of the overarching themes of the movie is the concept of embracing family, no matter what that looks like. It could be your immediate family, strong friendship, or a couple of humans and a house full of animals from all over the globe. We need family and that feeling of love and leaning on one another. Polynesia, voiced by Emma Thompson, pushes Dolittle to break free of his trauma and reminds him of what it really means to live.
Empathy comes in many forms, but despite losing the love of his life, Dolittle takes care of the animals he lives with and the many he encounters on the journey. Patient first, right? But the animals also show Dolittle compassion and empathy as well. They care for him as he does for them.
I think communication is an unmistakable message in a film where a human talks to animals, but if you dig deeper, it’s about listening and learning from one another. Stubbins starts to apprentice Dr. Dolittle and learn by immersing himself in the “language.”
“Things can seem like they are a certain way for a certain reason, and we tend to sometimes hold ourselves in judgment for things that have happened in our lives, but what winds up occurring in this adventure is everyone becomes kind of whole,” Downey says.
Some of the animals faced their fears and challenged them head-on. But one of my favorite lines from the movie is that “It’s okay to be scared.”
The voice actors got to include a lot of improvs for their characters to flesh out their personalities. For example, Yoshi is a polar bear that is “seeking warmth,” according to John Cena. His personality is positive and friendly and loves to help out.
Dolittle is in theaters on January 17th. Grab the whole family for this one. You’ll be laughing, gasping, and cheering throughout the whole movie.